Spanish version

08. - Isabel II (1830-1904)

Isabel II

Isabel II was the daughter of Fernando VII and his last wife, Maria Cristina de Borbon. SheMaria Cristina de Borbon became Queen when she was only 3 years old, when her father died.

In order to make it possible for his daughter to reign, Fernando VII abolished the Salic Law. His brother Carlos Maria Isidro did not agree with this, and claimed the throne as Carlos V. This was the beginning of the Guerras Carlistas, which lasted until 1839.
As Isabel II was only a child, her mother, Maria Cristina, reigned on her behalf until 1840. She had already realized that her husband´s absolutism could not continue and she signed the Constitution. Also the Carlist War was going on and she had to seek the help of the liberals in order to fight her brother in law.

The Constitution forsaw a parliament and two chamber system. At the same time Maria Cristina named Mendizabal her minister. He put into practise the Ecclesiastical Confiscation. The idea was to  take the lands, in hands of the Church, as they did not bring any profit.
Mendizabal These two events, Constitution and Confiscation, Maria Cristina, her second husband, Agustin Muñoz, and one of their daughterswere the starting point of a new capitalist development and a political liberalism, extending the influence of the bourgeoisie.
But Maria Cristina did not like the liberals and preferred the moderate party. Discomfort grew and in 1840 she was obliged to resign. She went into exile to France, leaving her daughters, Isabel and her sister in Madrid. General Espartero asumed the regency until 1843. During his regency the liberal trend divided into two tendencies, the Moderate Party (conservative) and the Progressive Party (more liberal).
Shortly after her husband´s death, Maria Cristina had fallen madly in love with a sargent of the Spanish Army, Agustin Muñoz, whom she had secretly married in 1833. Eventually this marriage became known and was another reason for her leaving as it was not welcomed by the Spanish people. Maria Cristina and her second husband had eight children.
During Espartero´s regency Maria Cristina orchestrated a coup which failed, but his regency was not succesful and he too was  obliged to resign. Finally Isabel II was crowned in 1843 when she was only 13 years old.
Espartero She was quite popular among the people due to her open and friendly character, but she lacked  political and cultural education and she was constantly manipulated not only by her mother who stillNarvaezwanted to reign in Spain, but also by the many different characters that continously changed around her. The two parties were trying to get the power. Under the leadership of General Narvaez, during the first ten years of Isabel´s reign, the Moderate Party governed. A new Constitution was developed, the Treasury was reformed and the Confiscation was stopped.
One of the main questions was Isabel´s marriage as an heir was needed. On her sixteenth birthday, Isabel married her cousin Francisco de Asis de Borbon. The marriage was a disaster. Francisco de Asis was homosexual and probably did not father any of Isabel´s eight children. It also made Isabel look for love elsewhere and she was well known for her many love affairs. Her dinners at Lhardy became famous as she went there with her friends. From the very beginning of the marriage the negative influence of the most conservative and clerical sectors could be felt.
As the Moderate Party governed in such a restrictive way, the Progessive Party was constantly trying to overthrow Bravo Murillothe government. The last conservative government was the one of Juan Bravo Murillo, who made many changes related to administration and the Treasury.
After different rebellions and uprisings, Queen Isabel handed the power to Espartero and O´Donnell, representatives of a coalition that had suported the revolution. But this mixed government was not going to last long.
The Confiscation went on and therefore relations with the Vatican were broken. Important economic laws were passed which developed Spanish capitalism - laws regarding railroads, banks and companies.
Two years later Isabel sought O´Donnell´s help to remove the Progressives and re-establishO´Donnell the Constitution of 1845. A time of constant changing governments followed. First Narvaez governed returning to a moderate climate. Afterwards O´Donnell, now leader of a Centrist Party governed from 1858 to 1863.
But in 1863 the situation was chaotic, the political system was rotten and as a consequence the Crown too. Many moderate governments had succeded each other and had become more and more repressive as the opposition grew. The Moderate Party was on thin ice and the Monarchy Isabel IIwith it. Now the rebels did not want another government, they wanted the Queen to leave and finally, in 1868, the Queen was dethroned and went into exile in France.
For the next six years different political alternatives were tested, among them a new monarchy with Amadeo de Saboya and the First Republic.
Isabel was received by Napoleon III in France where she went with her husband and children. She lived there until her death thirty years later. Upon arrival she decided it was time for a new life and one of the first things she did was divorce her husband. In 1870 she abdicated in favour of her eldest son Alfonso, the future Alfonso XII. She returned to Spain for short periods, but even her son thought it was better for her to live abroad.
She died in 1904 and was buried in El Escorial.

@Copyright 2008, 2009 Mª Dolores Diehl Busch. All rights reserved.
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